Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 3 of 55

4 APRIL 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T he gathering inside the Notre Dame Stadium media room to celebrate Gerad Parker as the next Notre Dame offensive coor- dinator didn't unfold or look much like anyone in attendance would've anticipated. Instead of Marcus Freeman in- troducing a new and accomplished coordinator to provide a fresh voice and vision, the Irish head coach somewhat awkwardly but also con- fidently promoted his tight ends coach Gerad Parker to the position. Even during the introduction, Freeman admitted that Parker wasn't the first or even the sec- ond choice to fill a void created when former offensive coordinator Tommy Rees left for Alabama. Those top candidate distinctions belonged to Kansas State's Collin Klein and Utah's Andy Ludwig, two coaches who interviewed for the Notre Dame job but decided to stay where they are. And so free of much splash or at- tention, candidate No. 3 got the job. The strong relationship Freeman and Parker built while working together at Purdue from 2013-16 made this an easy Plan C. And for better or worse, the same fa- miliarity and cohesion that led Parker to his promotion also steered most of the recent and notable coaching hires under the watch of Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick. Freeman was promoted from defen- sive coordinator to head coach in 2022. Rees was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator in 2020. Even the hiring of former Irish player and 12-year Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey to head women's basketball coach in 2020 should be considered a promotion, even though Ivey worked as an NBA assistant for 14 months before she was summoned back to South Bend. And now, Parker moves from a position coach to the offensive architect. Whether this rash of recent in-house hires is a function of Swarbrick and Notre Dame defaulting to the ease of familiarity, a void of due diligence or, dare I say it, perhaps coaching under the Golden Dome is no longer as attractive as it once was, it all makes for an inter- esting debate. Kelly made a lateral move out of here. Rees made a lateral move out of here. And OC candidates from Kansas State and Utah — not exactly perennial foot- ball powers — interviewed here but said thanks but no thanks, according to Swarbrick. Freeman has made "choose hard" and "question everything" two of his head coaching mantras. He did neither with this hire. And so, for now, we're left to wait and wonder if bucking his own mission statement and settling on a familiar hire brings better results than the bombshell hire we were all expecting. BUCHNER MATTERS When quarterback Sam Hartman was brought to campus in January as a graduate transfer from Wake Forest, I believed that a healthy offseason battle for 2023 starting duties would blossom with rising Irish junior Tyler Buchner, last season's opening-day signal-caller. I've realized since then that bar- ring unforeseen circumstances, Hartman is the 2023 starter and Buchner will be his backup. All of it provides a déjà vu mo- ment to 2021 when Jack Coan came to Notre Dame from Wisconsin as a stop-gap, single-season starting quarterback to bridge the duties be- tween Ian Book and one of the inex- perienced quarterbacks already on the Irish roster, presumably Buchner. A versatile player, Buchner as a true freshman in 2021 was given a low-risk complementary role to Coan, mainly in the ground game. The quarterback timeshare strat- egy made sense and worked well during that 11-2 season. Fast forward two years, and Bu- chner finds himself in the same position as a junior that he did as a freshman, backing up a one-year mercenary. So how does this all shake out? With 45 career starts, 12,967 career passing yards and an ACC-record 110 touchdown passes at Wake Forest, Hart- man might be the most accomplished quarterback to ever enter the transfer portal, and a great get for Notre Dame. With that as a backdrop, it's critical that the Irish coaches not only keep Bu- chner engaged this preseason but also involved on game days in the fall. Buch- ner needs to feel wanted during practice and he needs to be used on Saturdays. Buchner has played well in his limited and disjointed appearances, including a 5-touchdown, MVP performance last December in a 45-38 comeback win over South Carolina in the Gator Bowl. He's a valuable and versatile player who Notre Dame cannot push aside because of Hartman's arrival. To be certain, the portal poachers are already monitoring Buchner's situation. Let's hope the Irish coaches are doing the same or they'll be back in the trans- fer market again in 2024. ✦ Second-year Irish coach Gerad Parker was promoted to offensive coordinator from his role as tight ends coach. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER Irish Use 'Familiar' Approach With OC Hire UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - April 2023